ReactOS: Dipping A Toe In A Millennium-era Open Source Dream

Do you remember when trying a new OS meant burning a CD? Not merely downloading an ISO and mounting it on a USB drive, but taking a circle of polycarbonate and hoping you didn’t get a buffer underrun as the file you’d spent an entire day downloading was burned onto it. A couple of decades ago that was how we’d take a look at a new Linux distro, and at the time we considered it to be nothing short of incredible that such a thing was possible. One of the ISOs I remember downloading back then was an early version of ReactOS, a project with the lofty aim of creating an open-source equivalent of Windows NT. You might think that in the nearly two decades since then it would have become an irrelevance and its contributors moved on to other work, but no. ReactOS is very much still with us, and indeed has just seen a new release. Version 0.4.13 is the latest in a long line of incremental updates, and remembering those early ReactOS ISOs when I saw their announcement, I thought I’d give it a spin. The result was both a peek at the current state of the project, and a chance to think about the place of a Windows clone in 2020. Continue reading “ReactOS: Dipping A Toe In A Millennium-era Open Source Dream”

Open Source… Windows?

There’s a lot to be said for open source software. The ability to change code to suit one’s needs, the fact that security vulnerabilities can be easier to find, and the overall transparency are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the strengths of using open source software. And, while Microsoft is no Apple when it comes to locking down their source code, their operating system is still, unfortunately, closed.

Don’t despair, though! There is a project out there that aims to change this. No, they’re not stealing anything or breaking into any computers to obtain Microsoft’s code. They’re writing their own version of Windows called ReactOS that aims to be binary-compatible with Windows. The software has been in development for over a decade, but they’re ready to release version 0.4 which will bring USB, sound, networking, wireless, SATA, and many more features to the operating system.

While ReactOS isn’t yet complete for everyday use, the developers have made great strides in understanding how Windows itself works. There is a lot of documentation coming from the project regarding many previously unknown or undocumented parts of Windows, and with more developers there could be a drop-in replacement for Windows within a few years. It’s definitely worth a shot if you fondly remember the frontier days of Linux where doing things like reading information on a CD required extensive experience using the terminal. If this is a little too much, though, there are other unique operating systems out there to investigate.

Thanks for the tip, [Matt]!

Hackaday Links: January 5, 2013

Do not aim laser at remaining eye

laser

Over on the reddits, [CarbonGod] thought he had a slightly overpowered laser pointer. His red laser pointer had a label that said it outputs less than 5 mW. The only problem is it melted black plastic and heated a thermocouple up to 140°F. [CarbonGod] is begging, borrowing, or stealing a power meter from an engineer friend, but until then we’ve got measurements from [The_Sourgrapes]. His lasers put out 105 mW (red), 56 mW (blue), and 53 mW (green).

While <5 mW lasers are fairly safe, these lasers that are labeled as having < 5 mW of output are not. Now if we only knew where to buy these overpowered lasers…

 It’s impossible to find this video in HD

rickroll

[Zach] created a physical rickroll device. It’s an Arduino and an MP3 shield hooked up to an ultrasonic sensor. When someone walks within six feet of the device, the Arduino starts playing Never Gonna Give You Up. When that person walks away, the song is paused only to start again when something else is detected by the ultrasonic sensor. There’s a hilarious video of [Zach] triggering his physical rickroll device, or you can check it out on the build page.

Hey, you! Write some code!

react

[William] wrote in to tell us about a project called ReactOS. The goal of the project is to create a free and open source operating system that is binary comparable with Windows XP. Yes, this project has been around for a very long time, but with Microsoft dropping support for XP, the ReactOS team could really use a few devs to get a beta out soon. If you know a bunch of low-level Windows stuff but haven’t ever contributed to an open source project, check out the developer’s wiki.

I’m [Johnny Knoxville] and this is electrostatic discharge

ouch

It looks like [Mehdi] is making a few instructional videos for EEs and those tinkering around with electricity. So far he has tutorials for making proper wiring connections, what not to do with ESD, how to take capacitors for granted, and demonstrating how electricity can kill you.

Penitent man shall pass…. Penitent man shall pass…

If gift giving were a contest, [Bradley] would win. His sister’s favorite movie is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so when he needed to wrap a gift (a coffee cup, fittingly), he went all out. All the challenges required to obtain the Holy Grail are present in this present including the breath of God (needs more circular saws), the name of God (why was the letter ‘J’ even in the movie?), and the Leap of Faith (sand included).

Coming up for his sister’s birthday, a face-melting hair dryer.